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Why Blurry and Unfocused Photos Can be Great

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Often looked over or discarded altogether, blurry and unfocused photos are usually dismissed as a waste of space on the hard drive.

Upon closer inspection, however, these photos can actually be beautiful and highly engaging.

Here are four ways in which blurry and unfocused photography can be great!

Why Blurry and Unfocused Photos Can be Great

Blurry or unfocused…What’s the difference?

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Blur occurs during an exposure when the camera and/or subject moves.

Unfocused imagery, on the other hand, is affected by aperture, focus, and distance.

Blurry images are directional or streaky, while unfocused images are fuzzy.

To achieve intentionally blurred images, photograph a moving subject and/or move the camera during an exposure.

To make unfocused photography, use a wide aperture for a very shallow depth of field and/or use distance and manual focus to keep sharpness down.

Of course, there are degrees of unfocused or blurry imagery. An unfocused image could still have elements nearing sharpness. Likewise, a blurry image could have aspects of near-stillness.

How blurry or unfocused an image is will be up to you and the incidental whims of the photographic process.

1. Color and light

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We spend a lot of our photographic lives trying to achieve perfect sharpness, so why create intentionally blurry/unfocused imagery?

The first reason is color and light.

Color photography came into mainstream use in the 1930s. Since then, the incredible variety of colors in our world has been encapsulated both digitally and on film.

Blurry and unfocused imagery strips a photograph back to the bare bones of color and light, generating an abstracted visual study of the environment around us.

We assign specific properties to different colors too. For example, yellow is paired with joy and blue with sorrow.

Because of this, blurred and unfocused depictions of color and light draw connections with viewers through powerful emotional associations.

2. Reflections on art history

Why Blurry and Unfocused Photos Can be Great

In looking back over famous contributions to art history, many tend to think about literal subjects like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans.

But many artists have transcended the rigidity of the representative, instead, focusing on the event of light, color, and form.

For example, Mark Rothko generated highly emotional responses from audiences with dreamlike forms and colors.

Color field artists like Helen Frankenthaler and Ronnie Landfield, painted artworks that conveyed the subliminal mechanism of seeing.

Blurry and unfocused photography makes images that are rooted in the history of visual art.

This history strengthens a blurry or unfocused image, giving it form and a conceptual standing of its own.

3. Abstraction

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Also known as non-objective or conceptual photography, abstract photography depicts imagery free from an immediate association to the objective subject matter.

Photographers like Eileen Quinlan and Barbara Kasten work within the realm of abstract photography to elicit a unique visual response.

Without the presence of immediately identifiable subject matter, the experience of the ineffable filters through.

Both incidental and intentionally blurred and unfocused imagery can take on the life of the abstract. Like an abstract painting, unfocused and blurry photography reflects the viewer’s own impressions and associations.

In addition, abstract photography is subjective. Blurry or unfocused abstract photography encourages a viewer to imbue a photograph with their own meaning and experience.

4. Fun!

Why Blurry and Unfocused Photos Can be Great

Nowadays there is a lot of emphasis on pin-sharp photography.

Letting loose and allowing unfocused of blurry photography to come through can be a lot of fun.

Unfocused or blurry photography is a little like finger-painting; part of the fun is in relinquishing the paintbrush and allowing the artistic impulse to guide your fingers.

Fresh color combinations, new approaches to the subject matter, engaging camera motions…experimenting with blurry and unfocused photography is a great way to discover new angles to incorporate into your future photography.

Conclusion

Blurred and unfocused photography may seem like a strange approach to photography, however, letting go and experimenting with your camera is one of the most enjoyable and educational parts of photographic practice.

Blurry photography introduces dynamic movement to an image, while unfocused photography distributes soft renderings of light and color.

Moreover, blurry or unfocused photography can create engaging visual experiences that reflect the physical nature of seeing.

By experimenting with blurred or unfocused photographic practices, you can generate an abstract perspective that is both engaging and unique.

What are your thoughts? Do you think there is a place for blurry and unfocused photos? Share with us in the comments your thoughts, or your photos!

 

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Megan Kennedy
Megan Kennedy

is a photographer and writer based in Canberra, Australia. A lifelong fascination with flight has inspired her photographic practice in documenting the intricate form of aircraft. Megan is also interested in travel photography and documenting human interaction with the modern landscape, through both intentional and incidental intervention. She is well versed in both digital and film practice. Both her writing and photography has been featured in numerous publications.